Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Short Takes, Wednesday Morning Edition


The Fighters played their last game of the year last night at the Kyocera Dome, and they won 4-0. I spent an hour trying to get Yahoo to accept my money in exchange for letting me watch the game over their internet feed, to no avail, and had broadcasts of every OTHER game except the Fighters, so instead of watching the game, I slept for 10 hours last night.

This win puts them into 3rd place with a W/L/T record of 74-67-3 and a .525 win percentage. Softbank and Seibu are now pretty much set in 1st and 2nd place, so it's just a matter of who takes 3rd -- the Fighters or the Marines?

The Marines have pretty much run out of steam, and right now are in 4th place with a 73-67-2 record... and 2 games left to play, both against 5th-place Orix. They beat 6th-place Rakuten last night. If the Marines win both of their last 2 games, they will edge out the Fighters for 3rd place at 75-67-2 and a .528 WP%. If they win one and lose one, they will finish in 4th. If they win one and tie one, the two teams will be in a dead tie. I am not sure what happens in that case -- a one-game playoff, perhaps?

Either way, over the last few days, my Fighters friends have started the email chain for "Who's coming to Seibu for the playoffs if we make it?" and seeing how many Seibu Fan Club members we have among us to secure tickets.

Big 6

You may be wondering where my Big 6 Week 3 roundup is. Well, guess what -- Week 3 isn't OVER yet. Waseda beat Meiji in 2 games, but after Keio beat Rikkio in the first game, they tied their second game on Sunday 0-0 (in 9 innings due to the pro game in the evening, with both Koji Fukutani and Masato Komuro refusing to budge), and were rained out on Monday, and then tied their THIRD game on Tuesday 4-4 (in 12 innings due to league regulations, with homeruns from both Hayata Itoh and Soichiro Tanaka), so now they are set to play their FOURTH game today. And get this, if Rikkio wins or if they tie again, they will go to a FIFTH game on Thursday. What I'm wondering is, who's going to pitch today? Daisuke and Fukutani both pitched 6 innings yesterday for Keio, and Okabe and Komuro both pitched several innings for Rikkio.

I feel sort of bad for the Tohto League, who gets pushed aside by all this, especially because their first game this week is Toyo-Aoyama, which should be a fantastic pitching duel between Takahiro Fujioka and Yuto Fukushima. Alas.

(EDIT> The answer to "Who will pitch?" was apparently Akihiro Hakumura for Keio and Hayato Saitoh for Rikkio. But Hakumura got knocked out after like 2 innings.)


Also, if you are in the Tokyo general area and are interested in the 2010 draft, you have one more day to enter the lottery for fans attending the draft.

I have been closely monitoring the college players who registered to enter the draft and today finally saw the first Big 6 guy to show up on the list -- Kisho Kagami! Hooray! I expect a few more guys to show up out of the Big 6 and Tohto leagues, but I'm not sure when their deadline is to notify the league is. I think the only other big-name college player listed so far is Yudai Ohno from Bukkyo University.

The high school players who registered list is a lot longer right now, and a lot more diverse. I know that they have until Oct 14th to notify the league. The only players on there so far that I've seen play in person (at a glance, there are probably others) are Shutoku's Taiki Mitsumata, Teikyo's Yasuaki Yamasaki, and Chiben Wakayama's Haruki Nishikawa, but I expect that some more Kanto-area players will show up soon. Narita's Ryo Nakagawa and Kojo's Justin Nakano are also registered for the draft.

I'm more nervous about this year's draft than I have been in the past, that's for sure -- probably because I am so much more emotionally invested in the college players more than anything else.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Aoki's 200th Hit! And Some Rain! And some Ice Hockey!

On Saturday night, we saw Norichika Aoki get his 198th hit and 199th hit of the season... and get hit by a pitch in his last plate appearance. I said to Kozo, "Does this mean I have to come back tomorrow too? I'm watching ice hockey in Yokohama tomorrow with Simon..."

Naturally, Kozo said, "Drag him here too! Come late if you need to! We'll save seats."

So, that is exactly what I did -- Simon and I went straight from the Shin-Yokohama Skate Center to Meiji Jingu Stadium, with a brief stop to get raincoats, and we arrived at the top of section D right after the Chunichi Dragons scored their first run of the game on an RBI single by my favorite Dragons player, Masahiko Morino, aka Dragonbutt.

The important thing is, we were there for Aoki's first at-bat of the game. I had a feeling it would happen like this -- just like in October 2004 when my friend Brian and I rushed like heck to get to Safeco Field for Ichiro's first at-bat when he got his 257th hit of the year, and then broke the single-season record on his next at-bat. You just kind of know that if you're not there, you'll miss it.

Anyway, Aoki comes up to bat, he's the leadoff man for the Swallows. It's sprinkling rain, but everyone who has something 200-hit-related has their posterboards ready to hold up. So we're cheering and yelling and cheering and yelling, and on the third pitch, BLAM, Aoki hits a low line drive fly ball to right field. It's going, and going, and HEY IT ENTERED THE STANDS AND AOKI'S 200TH HIT OF THE SEASON IS A GAME-TYING HOME RUN!


People hold up signs and start high-fiving and getting out umbrellas for Tokyo Ondo and all.

They don't stop the game exactly but they do announce the feat and put this up on the board for a bit -- it says, basically, that it's honoring Aoki's achievement of hitting 200 hits in a season for the second time.

This is actually from the 7th-inning stretch but should give you an idea of some of the stuff people had prepared in the stands for this game.

After that, Ryosuke Morioka, a former Dragon, came up and got a hit, and was driven in by Jamie D'Antona to make the score 2-1.

Morioka also got a hit in the 2nd inning... and as the Swallows were preparing to take the field for the top of the 3rd, and the Dragons were getting ready to bat...

...the rain started falling a bit heavier, and the umpires called a rain delay.

Kozo apparently spent the entire rain delay singing pop music that was playing over the loudspeakers (he claims that he got in a good 10 minutes of "Don't Stop Believin"), while Simon and I chose to go wander around the concourse and eat food and talk about Yoshinori, who started the game for the Swallows.

The rain delay lasted about 30 minutes, and the game got underway again with rain still falling, but not falling particularly hard. We got the impression that perhaps they were going to do their best to get in at least 5 innings so the game would become official and Aoki's homerun and 200th hit would stand. (If the game got called, everything would be wiped from the records, and he would be back at 199 hits.)

Of course, the joke was that we needed to keep going "for Morioka's sake", to keep HIS two hits.

As it is, Yoshinori managed to pitch SIX PERFECT INNINGS after the rain delay, and handed the ball over to Chang-Yong Lim for the 9th... and with the score becoming 3-1 on a solo homer by Shinya Miyamoto in the bottom of the 6th, the Swallows hung on to win the game. Hooray.

Final score.

I like to title this one "God looks down on the masses". No, just kidding, it's Aoki's hero interview.

Tsubakuro butts in to take a photo with Aoki. Too cute.

I feel a little bit guilty cheering against the Dragons, but basically, I'm a Fighters fan first and foremost, and an anti-Giants fan. After that, I'm not that picky, and Jingu is my second home, after all. (And to be fair, I still sang Morino's cheer song even from the other side, much to everyone's chagrin.)

Also, while I'm at it, did I mention that we watched some hockey? Despite that Simon is too busy to update his blog, he's still pretty much up-to-date on what's going on in Asia League hockey. Me, I've become vaguely familiar with the players over the last 3 years, but since I'm not a hockey expert, it's hard for me to really analyze what the hell these guys are capable of, besides that I can clearly see some guys score more goals than others and some goalkeepers are more insane than others.

So we watched the Tohoku Free Blades take on the Nippon Paper Cranes (another one of those unfortunate company names like the Fighters, the company is Nippon Paper, the team is not the "Paper Cranes", appropriate as that might be). The Free Blades just formed last year in the wake of Seibu's ice hockey team going away, and they were horrible last year, but the team we saw this time started off strong and we seriously thought they were going to win -- they were up 3-1 at one point -- but then the Cranes, veteran championship team that they are, came back to win 4-3 in overtime.

It seems that basically the Free Blades added a few new foreign players, including a new Korean kid right out of college named Hyeok Kim, and also a few new players in general, in addition to picking up the Kawai brothers (Takuma and Ryuichi) mid-season last year, and now filling out the rest of the Tanaka Brothers Set (Go, Sho, and Ryo; Go is the team captain and he spent last year playing in Germany), and then had more time to train together as a unit... they definitely looked more cohesive than last year. And goalie Michio Hashimoto seems to be as solid as ever.

The Cranes seem to be the same team that have been beating up the rest of the Asia League for the last few years, give or take 2-3 players. Notably, I noticed that Darcy Mitani got released and is now playing for the Korean High1 team in Chuncheon. That kind of sucks. But other than that, they looked largely the same as I remember them, with Itoh and Obara and Chris Yule leading the way; Masahito Nishiwaki was in the game a lot but not nearly as aggressive as I expected. The Cranes' goalie this time was Kiyokawa instead of Ishikawa, too.

I didn't really take notes at this game, so I'm just going to throw some photos up that I took with my little point-and-shoot camera:

Face-off was supposed to be at 2pm, but there was some kind of Zamboni Error. Here a bunch of the Cranes players come out to see what's going on, as some staff try to fix the ice.

We were sitting right behind the announcers and scorers. I really enjoy being so close to the rink at games in Japan.

Free Blades line.

Cranes line gets ready on the other side.

Ceremonial First Puck. This kid was apparently the first person to enter the arena that day.

And a real face-off.

Here's the entertainment on the ice between the first two periods, some figure-skater dancer types.

Also during that first break, the Free Blades mascot was sitting a few rows ahead of us (it was technically a Free Blades home game even though we were in Yokohama instead of Tohoku somewhere), and a few people went up to try to get photos of the mascot with their kids, so I was like, "Simon, we gotta go up there too!"

So we did.

The dude behind Simon's arm is a guy from Washington DC, and he gave me a lot of crap for wearing a Flyers shirt, like "What the hell do I have to do to escape you bastards, I come halfway across the planet and I still find Flyers fans?" Rather than admit that I'm just Philadelphia-born, haven't lived there since 1994, and can probably only name like 3 current Flyers players off the top of my head, I just let Simon do the talking since he follows hockey and actually knows about the Capitals and all. But this DC dude actually yelled "Flyers suck!" at me when he saw me later. Sheesh. It's pretty standard to just wear any hockey gear you have at all to games in Japan, and I'm hoping to get up to Nikko later this year since they actually wear orange and black as their colors, so the Flyers shirt will fit in better there.

Blades are up 2-0 in the second period. Amazing.

The slowest penalty shot known to man.

A zamboni AND a remote-controlled blimp advertising the Xebio sports store chain! Whee!

Puck-throwing, which was the entertainment between the 2nd and 3rd periods -- a bunch of kids tried to hit a sign in the center of the ice. I dunno. We went off to get Simon outfitted in a Free Blades t-shirt at that point anyway.

Simon came back a bit later with this -- nori-covered shoyu dango sticks labelled as the "Tanaka Three Brothers" dango. And it had been signed by two of the three Tanaka brothers (Go and Sho; Ryo is the youngest so we're pretty sure he didn't come with the team this time). This is funny because of a song from a while back called "Dango Sankyodai" -- or "the three dumpling brothers", that was a hit in Japan about 10 years ago. I had no idea at the time that several years later I would meet the singer Kentaro Hayami at Kamagaya, when he started doing all of the Fighters songs for them. Go figure.

Anyway, the dango themselves were just average-tasting, but since Go Tanaka is the team captain, it was kinda cool that Simon got the signed label thingy. There are a LOT of brother pairs in Japanese hockey... it makes sense, really, that the most elite players would probably be kids who grew up skating together from a very young age. Like how Takuma Kawai says that at the age of 3 he just started following older brother Ryuichi to hockey practice, and grew up with the sport.

Cranes celebrate scoring a goal.

Tie game, two guys in the penalty boxes, and less than 2 minutes left on the clock. Oh, the suspense!

Cranes pileup right in front of us after captain Ohsawa shot the winning goal a few minutes into overtime.

Final score.

It really was a very close game, and Simon kept saying he was impressed by how the Blades looked out there. We figure they just ran out of steam, and the veteran Cranes team kept their momentum going and didn't give up when they were down a few points, but found a few openings and took advantage of them.

I'm hoping to do a few hockey roadtrips before I leave Japan this winter. Koriyama is a definite, and hopefully Nikko. We'll see. Nikko signed Yutaka Fukufuji this year, it would be kind of neat to see him play here.

I've taken some much better hockey photos in the past (like this set from the Seibu-Cranes championship Game 7 from the 2008-2009 season) with my real camera but haven't really put a lot of them online, usually due to timing. I should, at some point.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday at Jingu - College and Pro

It was still cold and rainy in the morning when I woke up, so I decided to skip the Keio-Rikkio game and instead do my double-header of Waseda-Meiji plus the Swallows-Giants game in the evening.

I saw about 10 minutes of the Keio-Rikkio game over (thanks to Ken Dick for the pointer), and apparently by dumb luck I managed to see almost all the scoring in that game anyway. While watching on TV, I saw the 6th inning for Keio, where they got their first run when Rikkio pitcher Kenya Okabe overthrew 3rd base on Takao's at-bat and the first run came in, 1-0. Then with the bases loaded (Itoh #9, Takeuchi Kazuma #8, and Takao #7), Takayuki Matsuo hit a double and the other three guys scored, 4-0. Masahiro Nagasaki bunted Matsuo up to third, and pitcher Daisuke Takeuchi executed a perfect squeeze bunt to make it 5-0.

I got to Jingu at 1pm, and the score was 5-2 in the top of the 9th. Keio had the bases loaded, so Yamaguchi scored on a sac fly to left by Aoyama, 6-2. Then Ren Yamasaki hit a bases-clearing triple into the right-field corner with Itoh and Tamaki scoring, 8-2.

Rikkio, for their part, didn't give up, even with two outs (Yusuke Yamada pinch-hit! But he struck out!). Naoshi Hasegawa duobled to left and then Yuji Naka cranked a long fly ball to left field... that apparently hit the foul pole for a homer. 8-4. Koichiro Matsumoto got on base on an error by Fuchigami (WTF), but Okazaki flew out to left to end the game.

I was sitting in the outfield because it's free if you're female, and because I was late and because I didn't want to deal with the Saitoh crowds and the Meiji crowds.

So between the games I wandered out to see if I could find any of my friends or to find the Nikkan Sports people who put out the Tokyo Rocks! papers, but to no avail. I did get my ticket to the Yakult game, which turned out to be a good move as it was CROWDED later. And I ran into the Keio ouendan leader and said hi; it's important to greet people, even if I wasn't actually in the cheering section.

It was also crowded on the 3rd base side, for this reason...

...tons of Giants fans waiting to see if they could get autographs or even get players to notice them at all. And this was 5 hours before game time!!

Anyway, back on into the outfield..

...where it was sparsely attended, so you could spread out and all, BUT the problem was that the sun was in my eyes the entire game. I put up my umbrella to keep the sun out a little, but it didn't help much. It was also HOT as a result -- I think it was still 20-21 degrees in the shaded infield, but the keychain thermometer I carry said it was around 30 where I was. Ouch.

Anyway, the second game was Waseda-Meiji. Yuki Saitoh started for Waseda and Yusuke Nomura started for Meiji. And well, Saitoh pitched a good game and Tatsuya Ohishi finished it up for him and Waseda won 4-2. Gota Nanba finished out the game for Meiji.

(I will add more details later.)

It was a LONG game though -- Nomura threw 138 pitches in 7 innings and the game went until 4:55pm. This was a bit of a problem for a pro game starting at 6pm...

It was amusing to me, because I was in the outfield until 5pm... and then by 5:20pm I was back in the outfield! I left, walked around to the front of Jingu, and walked back. Meiji and Waseda both had gated-off buses, so it wasn't possible to talk to players at all anyway. I couldn't find my usual group of friends, but I did run into my friend Kobayashi on her way out and she gave me this HUGE stack of photos she printed out of Kagami and Itoh from the World University Baseball Championships and they are AWESOME. Seriously, like 70 photos, that must have cost her a bunch to print. I'm not sure what I can do in return. I think her camera is better than mine.

While walking past the Swallows facility (there's no clubhouse IN the stadium, the players have to come in from outside), I heard a bunch of people yelling "WHITESELL! WHITESELL!" or more like, "HUWAITOSERRU!". So I put my camera up and snapped into the clubhouse parking lot, and later on saw...

...Kazuhiro Hatakeyama. WHY DOES HE HAUNT ME?

Anyway, when I got back into the stadium, the outfield was already packed with Swallows fans. I sat with Kozo, and his friends Aki and Charles, and the rest of the gang at the top of Section D, and we had a grand old time yelling crap at the Giants.

Kozo already summarized the game, including that we saw Aoki's 198th and 199th hits but not his 200th because he got plunked in his last at-bat. So let me just add a few photos I snapped from the outfield:

This is a scheme to get you to give them your cellphone email address. It says "The 2011 Manager will be _ _ _?" You're supposed to enter "O ga wa" and maybe you will win a prize. The amusing part is that I was saying, "TA KA DA? FU RU TA? A RA KI?" They all fit.

New and creative way to raise your umbrella for Tokyo Ondo -- attach it to a 2-year-old kid on your shoulders. Awwww.


This game started at 6:10pm and ALSO went long, until 10:10pm or so. Around 9:45 they reminded us that you can't use ANY instruments to cheer after 10pm at Jingu. (You can't use drums after 6pm.)

Final score. Alex Ramirez hit a homerun off Hei-Chun Lee in the 7th, after the Swallows had gone to great lengths to tie up the game in the bottom of the 6th. Sigh.

Game hero Rami-chan.

I will add more to this post later, but I'm already two great stories backlogged from last weekend. Sigh. And now I'm off to watch some hockey, and maybe another game at Jingu if I'm up for it...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tokyo Big 6, Week 2: Kagami Is Awesome And Some Other Guys Played Baseball Too

This is a massive post detailing the entirety of Week 2. I was only at one out of the five games, but was doing my best to follow the games all weekend...

Day 1, Game 1: Todai vs. Meiji - The Freshman Continues To Be Fresh

Meiji 5, Todai 2

Unfortunately, I had to work on Saturday morning, so I missed the first game. 3rd-year ace Yusuke Nomura started for Meiji, and freshman apparently-new-ace Shota Suzuki started for Todai. I've talked about Nomura extensively on here; he came within 2 innings of winning Koshien 2007 with Koryo HS, was already a regular starting pitcher as a freshman at Meiji, and in his sophomore year became the anchor of their rotation. Suzuki, I just saw him for the first time last week, but he doesn't entirely suck, and has a lot of guts for a freshman. Also, apparently, they had him wearing #18 this time (not the #11 he wore opening weekend nor the #34 that he's listed with in the player book).

My friends that attended the first game were glowing about Suzuki during the second game, like "Tokyo really tried their best in that game, and it was a 1-0 score for the first 6 innings while Yusuke and Suzuki were pitching against each other!" Of course, Todai's offense is still fairly unlikely to get much off of Nomura when he's on, and he struck out 10 of them over those first 6 innings, only giving up 3 hits. It sounds like Suzuki came out of the game due to the manager worrying about his stamina more than anything else, which may actually be a good sign that they aren't going to kill him before he even turns 20 years old.

Naturally after Suzuki came out, Meiji scored 4 runs (only 2 earned) in the top of the 7th to make it 5-0. But it took 5 Meiji pitchers to get through the last 3 innings, and of them, only Gota Nanba had actually logged significant innings in league games before; Mizuno and Mochizuki were making their league debuts, freshman Sekiya pitched one game in the spring, and Shogo Shibata pitched once at Jingu back in spring 2009. So, Todai managed to get 2 runs off those guys, but still not really come anywhere close to winning.

Day 1, Game 2: Hosei vs. Rikkio - Hosei's Offense Shows Up, and Kagami Changes Up

Hosei 6, Rikkio 2

I got to Jingu just in time for the start of the second game. A friend of mine left me a free ticket with the Hosei cheerleading girls, so after a little bit of confusion finding the person with the ticket, I came in and sat with the Hosei ouendan for the first 7 innings of the game (which is why I have no photos; you're not allowed to take photos in the ouendan area and I didn't bring my big camera anyway). I spent the last 2 innings in the front row with my usual group of friends, and by dumb luck ended up meeting a guy who was the Hosei ouendan leader in 1959.

Anyway, this is, infact, the only photo I took while sitting in the ouendan area, because the cheer girls in front of me weren't looking:

Kenya Okabe started for Rikkio, and Kisho Kagami started for Hosei (he is the reason I spend every Saturday at Jingu).

I was super-worried that the actual problem would be no run support for Kagami, being as Hosei's offense has been HORRIBLE this year, but in the 2nd inning, the Hosei batters Kyosuke Narita, Shohei Doi, Kota Imamura, and captain Seiya Ohyagi hit 4 consecutive singles to bring in a run. 1-0. (It's like the Kansas City Royals joke from a few years back of "Four hits equals a run!", but worse). With the bases still loaded, Kagami himself hit a sac fly and brought in Doi; 2-0.

Rikkio's Yuki Maeda hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 3rd to make it 2-1. I hate to say this, but Kagami's biggest weakness is that he always seems to give up one home run per game.

But in this game it was irrelevant as Hosei added 4 more runs in the top of the 4th. Shohei Doi led off with a single, and stole second two batters later as Seiya Ohyagi struck out. So with two outs, Kagami came to the plate, and singled to center, bringing in Doi! 3-1. Yusuke Hasegawa was hit by a pitch after that, on his left side, and then Kento Tatebe slammed this ball to centerfield, all the way back to the wall, and by the time the Rikkio outfielders recovered it, Tatebe was standing on 3rd base for a triple and Hasegawa and Kagami had scored. 5-1.

Rikkio changed pitchers from Okabe to former ace Masahito Nihira after that... and Kanji Kawai followed it up with a single to bring in Tatebe. 6-1. Taki grounded out after that.

Rikkio's next pitcher was a freshman named Yuho Yabe ("Yabe!" being a male-speech phrase that is generally uttered to mean "Oh crap!"), who made one appearance in the spring, gave up 4 runs to Waseda in less than an inning, and was never heard from again. This time he fared much better, going 3 scoreless innings, striking out 4, and only walking 3. Hayato Saitoh (the pitcher, 斎藤隼, not to be confused with the outfielder, 西藤勇人, who batted 2nd and played right field in this game) finished out the last inning for Rikkio.

In the meantime, Rikkio managed another run in the 6th when Koichiro Matsumoto led off with a single, moved up on a groundout, and scored on a single by Keisuke Okazaki, which is what made it 6-2 -- and that would be the final score:

Kisho Kagami was, of course, the game hero, being as he pitched a complete-game win over Rikkio on 132 pitches, striking out 8... AND he also batted in two runs!

Since I could see but couldn't hear his real interview, here I'll translate his interview on the Nikkan Sports Hosei Blog:

- Let's look back at today's game.
It's good to win on a Saturday one way or another.

- You pitched a complete game win...
Well, because a starter should always be aiming for a complete game shutout, that was good. With that in mind, you try to pitch each inning without giving up hits.

- What's your impression of Rikkio's lineup?
There are a lot of power batters. So I was trying to be careful because a bunch of those guys can knock one out of the park at any moment... and one guy unfortunately did.

- Which batters were you most cautious of?
Koichiro Matsumoto, Soichiro Tanaka, and Keisuke Okazaki.

- What was your best pitch today?
My changeup.

- You also had a few RBIs as a batter...
It was after I gave up a run, so I was happy that I could get us back one or two runs on my own too.

- How are you looking ahead to your next start?
It could be tomorrow or the next day but I'll be ready whenever!

Now see, there was a Yakult-Chunichi game at Jingu in the evening, which I wasn't attending (quite frankly, after getting up at 6:30am for work, and then doing that plus 7 innings of yelling and clapping with the Hosei ouendan, I was completely zonked). But it meant that Jingu was really crowded outside after the game with people arriving for the pro game, as well as the college game fans filtering out as well.

Still, my friends and I waited for the players to come out, and they still did schmooze with people a bit.

I had some new photos from opening weekend that I wanted to get signed (most of the ones from this post). I got new autographs from Taki and Mishima (Taki with his new uniform number, and Mishima actually changed his signature!) since I know them well enough to bother them. I also tagged Kyosuke Narita and Ryoto Yoshikoshi, who were both like " want ME to sign something...? Really?" I was asked if I had photos of Kitayama the sidearmer and Shoya Yamamoto the senior lefty, but I hadn't printed those. Whoops. (They actually wanted to see; apparently my camera has a reputation among Hosei pitchers now.)

I also chatted up Kota Imamura and Naoki Harada for information on some current/former teammates, because we've been wondering what happened to former student coach Naoki Satoh (sounds like he's busy trying to graduate and start a job next year) and to former outfielder Shingo Kamegai, now with Toyota, who apparently broke his arm while in practice during the Toshitaiko. Whoops.)

And... having not actually heard any of Kagami's interviews, and not realizing he'd actually been saying his changeup was working for him recently and all, I went up to Kagami with this photo in hand, and said, "Because your changeup has been so awesome, can I get you to sign a photo of you throwing a changeup?" He laughed and said thanks, said it was a nice photo, and signed it.

Unfortunately after that I tried to actually ask him about some other stuff and he suddenly pretty much just excused himself and ran off. I don't really know if it was that he didn't want to talk to me, or what. I was a little freaked out at the time, wondering if I annoyed him, but I've been trying to remind myself that first, it was CROWDED out there, and second, he is very much in demand these days being as he's a likely high draft pick next month, and probably doesn't have time to just chat. One of my friends said to me, "I saw you get him to sign something and you must have said something really nice because he had a huge smile on his face... I don't think he's angry at you. I bet he's just busy."

If only I hadn't been terrified to talk to college ball players two years ago when I adored him and he was just some lanky sophomore kid who was striking out Waseda batters left and right. These days I have a lot more confidence in my ability to not sound like a complete moron in Japanese, at least. I'm not sure people realize how much nerve it takes me to go up to these baseball players and talk to them.

Day 2, Game 1: Rikkio vs. Hosei - Sophomore Deathmatch Ends in a Tie

Rikkio 1, Hosei 1

I wasn't at Day 2 at all, because I was at Olympic Stadium in Nagano watching the Shinano Grandserows beat the Niigata Albirex instead.

Sophomore righty Kazuki Mishima did get the start for Hosei after all (he'd mentioned it was a possibility on Saturday, that it would be either him or Mikami). Rikkio's starting pitcher was sophomore lefty Masato Komuro.

And it ended up being a pitcher's duel, basically. Mishima pitched 8 innings, striking out 8 and only giving up one run, a solo home run to Ryuichi Maeda, and giving up 5 hits total. But Komuro did even better, giving up exactly one hit and one walk in 7 innings. And they were both to Shohei Doi.

The scoring went as such: Maeda's homerun made it 1-0 in the 2nd inning. In the 5th inning, Doi led off with that walk. Sasaki grounded into a fielder's choice but both runners were safe as Doi reached second. Matsumoto then bunted up the runners, and captain Seiya Ohyagi hit a sac fly to centerfield that scored Doi, 1-1. And that is it. Literally.

Actually, Rikkio's Kazuki Utsui pitched the last 2 innings, and he walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th but then struck out Doi and Sasaki to end the game in a tie after 9 innings according to league regulations; the rules of the Tokyo Big 6 League are such that on a game day where Yakult is using Jingu in the evening, the morning game starts at 10:30 and games end in 9 innings regardless of whether they're tied.

(According to Wikipedia, the tie rules for normal days without pro games afterwards are such that a game is called a tie in 12 innings if it's the 1st or 2nd game in a series, but at the 3rd game and later, it won't be called a tie until 15 innings. Which explains travesties like this.)

So the Hosei-Rikkio series would go on to a 3rd game on Monday.

Day 2, Game 2: Meiji vs. Todai, More of the Same

Meiji 7, Todai 2

One of my friends who is a Meiji fan actually texted me the game events as they progressed, so I was following this one slightly more closely. Tokyo captain Yoshihiro Maeda started for them, and tall lefty vaguely-draft-hopeful Kazuki Nishijima started for Meiji.

Things sailed along at 0-0 until the Tokyo infield fell apart in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Katsuya Kawashima led off for Meiji with a walk, and Uemoto bunted him up to second. Masataka Nakamura grounded to third, but third baseman Yamamoto booted the ball and so both runners were safe. Yajima hit a pop out, and then Sho Nishi came to the plate and launched a 3-run homer that put Meiji ahead 3-0. Fumiya Araki then got on base via another error, this time by shortstop Iwasaki, but the inning ended when Abe hit a pop fly out to first.

In the meantime, Nishijima sailed through the first 4 innings perfectly, and gave up one hit in the top of the 5th to Iwasaki that was immediately erased on a double play.

However, in the top of the 6th, Shota Utsumi led off for Tokyo with an infield single to short, and one out later, pitcher Yoshihiro Maeda followed that with a single to left. Hiromasa Horiguchi also hit an infield single and that loaded the bases for Takashi Kihara, who grounded out to second base, Utsumi scoring on the play. 3-1.

Meiji took back a point in the bottom of the 6th; Kenji Kawabe led off with a double to left, Nishijima bunted him up, and then Kawashima hit a double to center to score Kawabe, 4-1. Maeda came out of the game at this point and Todai's freshman sidearmer Shunsuke Kimura took over and got through the next two innings unscathed.

Gosuke Hiraizumi would not have the same luck, and Meiji hit him up for 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th to make it 7-1, on an RBI double by Yuma Miyatake and a 2-RBI double by Masataka Nakamura.

It took Meiji 3 pitchers to get through the top of the 9th (Morita, Serizawa, and Oka) and Tokyo managed to get one run off of them, on an RBI double by Atsushi Tanaka. The game ended at 7-2.

Meiji took the series point for this as expected, and Todai still has no wins to their name, but aside from the slaughter during the very first game on Opening Day, they have actually been putting up a relatively good fight.

Day 3: Hosei vs. Rikkio, Kagami Leads The Way Again

Hosei 2, Rikkio 1

I wasn't at this game either because I was at the Kamagaya Festival watching the Fighters ni-gun beat the Swallows ni-gun. It was a pretty difficult decision for me, but Kamagaya would most likely be the last Fighters event for me in 2010 (It'd be nice if they made the playoffs, but I don't want to get my hopes up too much). Plus, I sat in the front row at Kamagaya with Ojisan, who happens to be a Hosei alum, so during the Fighters ni-gun game, he kept checking the Fighters ichi-gun game score and telling me, and I kept checking the Hosei-Rikkio game score and telling him.

Hosei's Kisho Kagami and Rikkio's Kenya Okabe were the starting pitchers for this game again, just like Saturday. Hosei got a run off Okabe right away when leadoff man Nakao doubled, Nanba followed it with a single to put runners at the corners, and Tatebe hit a sac fly to left to bring in Nakao, 1-0. Taki also got a hit, but Narita grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Hayato Saitoh (西藤勇人) hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 3rd to make it 1-1. It worries me that Kagami gives up one home run pretty much every game.

On the other hand, Kagami actually HIT A HOME RUN HIMSELF to lead off the 7th inning and make it a 2-1 game. I nearly dropped my phone when I read that update! (The home run was off Masato Komuro, for the record.)

So yeah, he not only pitched ANOTHER complete-game win, he also hit the game-winning home run. How cool is that?

His interview on the Nikkan Sports blog this time is a little more sparse, but they have a picture of him receiving his home run ball, at least...

- Let's look back on today's game.
It's great that we won the series point!

- How was your condition today?
Relatively good.

- What was your best pitch today?
My fastball.

- Which Rikkio batters were you most cautious of?
Matsumoto, Tanaka, Okazaki.

- In the 8th inning, Hayato Saitoh, who'd hit the earlier home run, came up to bat with runners on and a very good chance to tie up the game. How did you feel when you pitched to him?
I absolutely did not want to give up a run at that time, so I had to really give it my all, I thought.

- Your fastball was clocked at a personal best of 153 km/h, how does that feel?
Honestly, I feel happy.

- How are you looking forward to your next start?
I want to win another series no matter what it takes!

And that's how Hosei managed to get their first Series Point of the season.

I want to point out something that's somewhat frightening, and that would be the league pitching stats for this semester so far. We're only two weeks in, but Kagami's already had 4 starts and pitched 3 complete games -- his 31 innings and 3 wins is already more than some guys had all SEASON in the spring. And he's also pretty much putting up the exact same rates he did last semester -- walking 5% of the batters he faces, striking out 20%. I just hope his home run rates go down from here on in. (That is, home runs given up. I wouldn't mind getting to see him hit another one in person someday!)

But last fall, when the draft was looming, Kazuhito Futagami went from being Hosei's Saturday-Monday pitcher to being the Sunday-only pitcher. I kind of hoped/expected they would do that for Kagami this year too, but apparently not. I wonder whose choice it was in both cases...

Matt Murton gets 200 hits

We interrupt my normal trying-to-write-entries by the fact that I'm watching the Chunichi-Hanshin game on BS1. Matt Murton got his 200th hit of the season, a home run to left field off Kazuki Yoshimi... and the game didn't stop at all (though BS1 put a 200安打達成 line on the screen when replaying the HR). No flowers, no announcement, no nothing beyond the normal high-fives after a player's home run.

Well, Murton's next at-bat he cranks one off Masafumi Hirai that bounces on top of the centerfield wall, and is first waved around as a homer, then Ochiai comes out to argue and the umpires take it back and make it a ground rule double.

It's nuts, really. I've seen the NPB stop games and give flowers to guys for less impressive milestones. I guess maybe it's because Hanshin is the away team, but... I'm wondering, if Modasho Boy makes it to 200 too, what they'll do to commemorate the moment.

Heck, I almost think there was more of a celebration for it being Naomichi Donoue's 22nd birthday today.

Murton, for his part, seems to be taking this all very much in stride; they keep showing him on TV and he's just... out there doing his job like it's any other game. Very stoic, very Japanese. No wonder he's doing so well this year :)

(Anyway, the real message here is, congratulations to Murton. I don't follow the Tigers much, but it's a fantastic accomplishment regardless of what country a ballplayer was born in.)

Murton WAS the game hero in the end. They only showed the first part of his hero interview on the BS1 broadcast, though.

First he came out and tried to say, in Japanese, "神様は私の力です。" (God is my power.)

The interviewer asked, basically, "You got your 200th hit today, how are you feeling?"

"I'm so thankful. I'm humbled by the whole thing. I have such respect for this league. I first want to first say thank you to God and to my family, to the organization, the coaching staff and my teammates that made this possible."

"--And how can I forget the fans? Can you get that in there? Make sure..."

Then the next question was, "What's your secret to staying healthy and hitting well?"

"There's really no secret. You work hard, you have a god-given ability, and then you're given an opportunity. An opportunity is all I could ever ask for and I've been given that, this organization's been good to me and my family and made it a lot more comfortable for us and a lot easier, so I thank them, and we've still got a ways to go here yet, though."

And then it cut out, so I have no idea what else he said, or whether they presented him with anything cool afterwards. I was only watching this game in the first place because today's a national holiday so I had the day off, but it's raining, so all the college/etc baseball games outdoors got cancelled.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Calbee Series 3

is out in stores now, and the bags of chips just appeared in my local grocery store sometime in the last week, so I bought four of them when I was grocery shopping tonight. It's crazy that Series 3 is already out; I barely got any Series 2 cards. Although that is mostly because I was gone or travelling for such a long time this summer, and then decided to cut down on junk food when I returned from the US. But I'll probably make an exception for some chips every now and then... it's still nowhere near as bad as when I was collecting Lotte Bikkuriman chocolate wafer baseball stickers.

Calbee Baseball Cards Page, you can also see the set lists if you can read Japanese.

Here are my pulls. I got the Tigers' Sakurai and Shunsuke Fujikawa, the Lions' Fujita, Yakult's Aikawa, the obvious Marines' Shunsuke Watanabe, Rakuten's Teppei, and Orix's So Taguchi. I suppose the Taguchi card is probably the most interesting?

The 8th card is a checklist that appears to be of Lotte's Yuji Yoshimi.

I didn't get any "special" cards, so I can't really comment on what's new and neat in this series, unfortunately.

I am mostly writing this post to apologize for not actually finishing any of the posts from stuff this weekend yet. I watched college ball at Jingu, and indie ball in Nagano, and also minor-league ball at Kamagaya, and all of them were unique and wonderful experiences in their own way.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Land of the Rising Fastball

Two summers ago, I was interviewed for a documentary about Japanese baseball called Land of the Rising Fastball, directed by Lance Miccio. It took them a while to actually finish the movie, and worse, while they were finishing up production, the editor, Andrew Koenig (probably best known as "Boner" on Growing Pains), committed suicide.

But, Lance did send me a DVD of it a few months ago and I watched it. I was embarrassed to note a few mistakes, and one of them was my own (I said Soukeisen went back to 1905, when it was infact 1903. But that's probably not as bad as them labelling Shigeo Nagashima as a Waseda star; you better hope that nobody from Rikkio ever watches this movie).

Overall, I'd say that the movie is an interesting watch if you're an English-speaking fan of Japanese baseball; there are some great segments of interviews with guys like Sachio Kinugasa and Masanori Murakami, done in Japanese and subtitled in English, and even some amusing stories from guys like Doug DeCinces and Gabe Kapler. And of course, you can see people like me and Michael Westbay babbling as well (and, embarassingly, you can hear me sing Hichori's ouenka. I think that was my biggest "OMG MUST TURN OFF THE DVD NOW" moment when watching it).

I will also say that there are definitely times when it drags; notably when Lance is trying to make a point about how World War 2 was Very Very Bad and there's like 5 minutes of various footage that doesn't really add to the movie as a whole.

Anyway, the actual reason I'm writing this post right now is that if you happen to be in the Bay Area, the movie is going to be screened at the Other Cinema in the Mission district of San Francisco, and you can meet Lance and ask him questions about the movie and all. It'll be shown on September 25th at 8:30pm, I believe.

Also, it's really embarrassing, but I did actually write a post about the filming and just never took it out of the draft pile on here because I was busy and absentminded, so here's my post about the movie filming if it didn't already show up backdated on your RSS readers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tokyo Big 6 University League Autumn 2010 Baseball Card Set

Okay, now that I am no longer sniping NPB Card Guy, I can finish this post :)

I'm probably one of the biggest dorks about Tokyo Big 6 baseball; I've been going to games since I moved here in 2007, and have been at enough of them in the last two years that I've been promoted from "oh, a gaijin" to "oh, THAT gaijin" among the Jingu regulars and even some of the players.

The "Handkerchief Generation" has spurred a lot of Tokyo Big 6 merchandising, including DVDs and calendars, and since spring 2008, a special card set box for each semester. I realize BBM would probably love nothing more than to make a "Yuki Saitoh" box instead of a "Tokyo Big 6" box. Too bad. This set is required to represent all 6 teams in the Tokyo Big 6 league equally, even if Tokyo University has only won 2 games (and lost 50) since the inception of the set.

You can see a few card samples on the official BBM page -- pictured there are the cards for Daisuke Takeuchi (K), Yuki Saitoh (W), Yusuke Nomura (M), Soichiro Tanaka (R), Kisho Kagami (H), and Shuhei Iwasaki (T).

For the record, their advertising at the top mentions that OMG YOU CAN GET YUKI SAITOH'S LAST COLLEGE CARD, and also says how Saitoh, Ohishi, and Fukui are expected to go as high draft picks (gee no mention of any non-Waseda candidates). And hey, you can also get the first ever card for Keio's Daisuke Takeuchi, who threw a no-hitter against Tokyo! And whee there are insert cards! Oh boy!

No offense, BBM, but I'd be happier if you went back to 9 players per team instead of 5, rather than putting in insert cards. Even if it means you may have to feature some Todai guys who batted .050 or have a 15.00 ERA.

Card list (the number is the card number in the set, plus school year and position, and * denotes team captain)

1. Daisuke Takeuchi (2, P)
2. Koji Fukutani (2, P)
3. Masahiro Nagasaki (4, C)
4. *Tatsushi Yumoto (4, IF)
5. Hayata Itoh (3, OF)
6. Keio Team

7. Tatsuya Ohishi (4, P)
8. *Yuki Saitoh (4, P)
9. Yuya Fukui (4, P)
10. Yuya Watanabe (3, IF)
11. Shohei Habu (3, OF)
12. Waseda Team

13. Kazuki Nishijima (4, P)
14. Yusuke Nomura (3, P)
15. Fumiya Araki (4, IF/OF)
16. Kento Yajima (4, OF)
17. Masataka Nakamura (3, OF)
18. Meiji Team

19. Kenya Okabe (2, P)
20. Keisuke Okazaki (3, IF)
21. Koichiro Matsumoto (2, IF)
22. *Soichiro Tanaka (4, OF)
23. Hayato Saitoh (2, OF)
24. Rikkio Team

(There are two boys named Hayato Saitoh on the Rikkio team; this one is 西藤勇人, not 斎藤隼)

25. Kisho Kagami (4, P)
26. Kazuki Mishima (2, P)
27. Yoh Sasaki (4, IF)
28. Hiroshi Taki (2, IF)
29. Kanji Kawai (1, IF)
30. Hosei Team

31. *Yoshihiro Maeda (4, P)
32. Junichi Katori (2, P)
33. Shuhei Iwasaki (3, IF)
34. Shota Utsumi (3, IF)
35. Yohei Tachi (2, IF)
36. Tokyo Team

Insert Cards (These are basically the Best 9, plus Kazuki Mishima for being ERA title holder. Yuya Watanabe was batting champion but he was also on the Best 9. I have already argued quite extensively on why Daisuke Takeuchi was clearly deserving of being the Best 9 pitcher.)

Insert cards:
SP01: Daisuke Takeuchi (K)
SP02: Masahiro Nagasaki (K)
SP03: Yoh Sasaki (H)
SP04: Yuya Watanabe (W)
SP05: Takayuki Matsuo (K)
SP06: Koichiro Matsumoto (R)
SP07: Hayata Itoh (K)
SP08: Soichiro Tanaka (R)
SP09: Kento Yajima (M)
SP10: Kazuki Mishima (H)

And I offer a few photos:

Box, front.

Box, back.

Box, inside, and Daisuke Takeuchi card on the top of the stack since it's #1. You may notice Hitoshi Fuchigami standing behind him in the card, which is funny because Fuchigami doesn't have his own card in this set, but he said "See, I'm still in the set... kinda..."

My favorite card of the set is probably freshman Kanji Kawai's, and not just because Kawai is my favorite rookie. I was at that game where that shot was taken, and have a shot of the same AB, I think, only from the other side.

My insert card is Koichiro Matsumoto. I wouldn't mind trading it...

I'm debating the idea of trying to get all of my cards signed except Waseda (since those guys might as well have a barbed-wire fence around them), but I'm not sure if it's worth bothering so many guys. I guess I have 6 weeks to get up the nerve to do it :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tokyo Big 6 Opening Weekend, Day 2: Photopost

Game 1: Waseda vs. Hosei

After losing the home opener, and after getting lit up in his hometown of Ehime at the Matsuyama All-Star Game, Yuya Fukui manages to throw a complete-game win against Hosei, striking out 11.

I thought it was rather appropriate as both starters were wearing #11 that he got 11 strikeouts. It would only have been better had the game been on the 11th instead of the 12th, but what can you do.

Waseda starter Yuya Fukui.

Hosei starter Tomoya Mikami.

This game started off kind of slow; it was hot and both starters seemed to be taking their time out there. Both teams scattered a few runners in the first two innings, and in the 3rd inning, Waseda pushed ahead a run. Yuya Watanabe walked to lead off, and Daisuke Ichimaru bunted, with the force throw to second failing and both runners being safe. Hiroki Matsunaga grounded into a double play, moving Watanabe to 3rd, and Shohei Habu's single to center brought him in. 1-0.

They added another run in the 4th inning, Toshiki Yamada leading off with a single to short. Keisuke Kawanishi bunted him up, and two batters later Yuya Watanabe came through with a single to left to bring Yamada home, 2-0.

Tomoya Mikami came out of the game and was replaced by Ryoto Yoshikoshi, a 3rd-year lefty pitcher making his second-ever appearance at Jingu. Yoshikoshi got out of the 4th inning but then hit Matsunaga to start off the next inning, and was the victim of another failed attempt to get the leader on a bunt, so he came out in the next inning and freshman Kazuki Funamoto came in to get a 4-3-2 double play out of Yamada to end the inning.

Hosei finally added a run of their own in the bottom of the 5th when Kento Tatebe singled to lead off, moved up on a bunt and moved up on a wild pitch to captain Ohyagi. Kyosuke Narita came in to pinch-hit in the 9-spot and singled to right to bring Tatebe home and make it a closer game, 2-1.

Kazuki Mishima took the mound for Hosei after that. Mishima was the Big 6 ERA title winner last semester; he's a little guy (5'9") who throws a big fastball (95mph or so). His control is only so-so though, and so he ended up walking Ichimaru, and then Shohei Habu hit a 2-run homer to left to make it 4-1. Bizarrely, that means that Mishima gave up more earned runs in this game (2) than he did all last semester (1).

Fumiya Kitayama and Shoya Yamamoto pitched the last two innings for Hosei, and Yuya Fukui finished out his complete game on 152 pitches, and that brought the series to an equal 1 game each Waseda won 4-1.

The ouendan implored everybody to please take off work or skip classes on Monday and come to Jingu and cheer for the third game of the series. I, naturally, did not take off work, but I did follow the game between classes and whatnot. Kagami and Saitoh had a rematch. Once more, Saitoh only went 5 innings, but this time Kagami was knocked out after 4. Tatsuya Ohishi also gave up his first earned runs of the year. While Waseda took a lead early and Hosei slowly clawed their way in, they never QUITE caught up, and so Waseda won the third game 6-5 and took the Series Point. Bleh.

Anyway, here are a bunch of photos from Sunday's Hosei-Waseda game:

Some more Tomoya Mikami. Dear god he's tall.

Ayuki "Keijiro's little brother" Matsumoto trying to bunt.

Hosei second baseman Masashi Nanba.

Hosei catcher Shohei Doi.

One of the Hosei ouendan leaders, Takahashi. I met him in Matsuyama.

Ryoto Yoshikoshi.

Kyosuke Narita bats in the only Hosei run.

And the reaction back in the dugout.

Kazuki Mishima.

High-fives at the Waseda side after Habu's homerun.

Sidearmer Fumiya Kitayama.

4th-year lefty Shoya Yamamoto.

Hiroshi Taki playing first base for a change (he usually plays shortstop).

Game 2: Keio vs. Todai

Keio beat Todai 4-0 in the second game with Fukutani pitching a complete-game shutout. However, this game was closer than the normal Todai bloodlettings are, mostly due to reasonably strong pitching from Todai freshmen Shota Suzuki and Shunsuke Kimura.

It was really hot out this weekend and I'd picked up a pretty nasty sunburn during Saturday's games, so I was hiding in the concourse between the two games on Sunday, putting on more sunscreen and deodorant, buying the Big 6 baseball card set, getting another Coke, and basically avoiding the sun for the 20 minutes or so. As a result I had no clue who would be starting the game until I came out and saw the lineup.

Yes, somehow I managed to be sitting on the 1st-base side for 4 righty starters. Go figure. Keio's starter was the ever-solid sophomore Koji Fukutani, and Tokyo's starter was a freshman making his first ever appearance at Jingu named Shota Suzuki. Suzuki is majoring in Spanish, bizarrely, and says that his dream is to go back to his high school, Jishukan, and be the baseball club manager and take them to Koshien. (For the record, Jishukan hasn't gone to Koshien since 1953, and that was Senbatsu anyway, and being in Aichi they would have to go through a ton of powerhouses to get there.)

Keio starter Koji Fukutani.

Todai starter Shota Suzuki.

I am, of course, partial to Todai starters named Suzuki, after my former favorite player on the team, a tall lefty guy named Yuichi Suzuki who was a really good pitcher until he blew his arm out pretty much throwing EVERY day.

This Suzuki did not start off particularly well; he walked the Keio leadoff man Hitoshi Fuchigami, and then captain Tatsushi Yumoto singled to right. A fielder's choice by Hayata Itoh two batters later put runners at the corners with two outs; Itoh stole scond and Takao walked to load the bases for Takayuki Matsuo, who hit a bases-clearing triple to right to make it 3-0. To be fair, that "triple" would have been a single or maybe even an out with a competent right fielder, and Aoyama hit a pop fly out to end the inning.

Bizarrely, that was all Keio scored for quite a while, as Suzuki settled down. They had two runners on base in both of the 2nd and 3rd innings but didn't bring them in, and then the bottoms of the 4th and 5th innings were both 1-2-3, with Shuhei Iwasaki making some fine plays at shortstop.

In the 6th inning, Keio brought in another run on an RBI double by Masahiro Nagasaki to make it 4-0. Nagasaki was thrown out at home two batters later on a somewhat ridiculous play where first baseman Yohei Tachi booted a grounder and it went off him into right field. Understandably, Nagasaki took off from second base and was running on the play, and you can't blame anyone for running home on the Todai arms, but for once Hiromasa Horiguchi managed to actually fire the ball home in time to get Nagasaki at the plate and end the inning.

What was funny about this is that one inning later, Keio found themselves victims yet again of an unexpectedly good play by a Todai outfielder; with runners at first and second and one out, Yasuhiro Takao hit a pop fly to left, and Hisanari Takayama not only caught the ball but managed to throw it to second in time to double off the runner coming back, who had clearly not even expected a Todai fielder to be able to catch a fly ball in the first place.

So sidearming Shunsuke Kimura not only prevented two inherited runners from scoring in the 7th, but also pitched a scoreless 8th.

Of course, this is all somewhat irrelevant as you might notice I haven't mentioned the Todai offense at all. The reason for this is that there was none; they had exactly two baserunners the entire game, both on singles, and Horiguchi even got himself picked off first, so Keio's pitcher Fukutani faced only 28 batters total, one over the minimum, throwing his complete game on 103 pitches. The game lasted just under two hours.

Still, I have to wonder if maybe this semester we'll actually see Todai win a game? It's been two years, surely they must be due for one again sometime.

More photos from Game 2:

Some more of freshman Shota Suzuki.

Koji Fukutani, a little closer up.

Fukutani at bat, for a change. Although he didn't get a hit in this game, he actually looks like a pretty reasonable batter at the plate -- and he even hit a home run last semester off Rikkio's Okabe.

Takayuki Matsuo batting in the first few Keio runs.

Keio ouendan 2nd-in-command Kitada. I met him in Matsuyama too. But he didn't have this weirdo hairstyle then.

Masahiro Nagasaki reacting to striking out. (He wasn't happy about it!)

Nagasaki getting thrown out at the plate in the 6th inning.

Todai freshman pitcher Shunsuke Kimura.

Day 2: The after-game antics...

I went outside Jingu with two of my friends to wait for the players to come out. My friend Kobayashi wanted to get her Big 6 box set baseball cards signed, though I decided I would rather get photos of mine signed since they're bigger (and quite frankly, the photography isn't so great in this semester's card set, IMO). I was really shy about bugging the Keio guys at first so eventually Kobayashi was like "Let's go over there. I'm going to kick you into asking Fuchi for his signature." So we did. In the end I managed to get signatures from Hitoshi Fuchigami, Hayata Itoh, Kazuma Takeuchi, Daisuke Takeuchi, Masahiro Nagasaki, and Koji Fukutani, and got photos with a few players too. I'm actually astounded that I managed to get a signature and photo with Itoh. I love Itoh, he's an amazing ballplayer, easily the best pure hitter in the Big 6 league right now and also a solid outfielder as well with great range and a great arm. I'm kind of afraid of him because I don't think he seems like a particularly nice guy, but I think he's just really, really good at baseball and love watching him play.

I did not, however, get photos with Nagasaki or Daisuke, which is a little sad, maybe I will try to get the courage to bug them some other time. Daisuke is one of my favorite players these days even if I think he thinks I'm stalking him. I gave Nagasaki a photo of him that I took at Botchan Stadium, but couldn't tell if he liked it or not.

Oh, a funny thing, too. When I went to ask Koji Fukutani for his autograph, it went sort of like this, him first being surprised that I even knew who the hell he was, I think:

Me: Umm, Fukutani-kun...
Him: Err, yes?
Me: Would you sign something for me, please? (I'm not sure how to properly translate the polite way of asking for an autograph, which is really more like "Would it be okay for me to receive your signing this?")
Him: Whaaa? Me? Really?
Me: Yes, you.
Him: Are you sure you want MY signature?
Me: Please! You pitched a good game today.
Him: Thanks. [signs the photo]

You have to understand something about Fukutani. He is a freaking GOOD pitcher. The kid is like 6' tall, can hit 94-95mph on the Jingu gun, is a sophomore... he pitched a great game in the All-Japan tournament this summer and in Soukeisen last semester as well. I don't talk about him nearly enough, but that is not because he doesn't rock, trust me.

Well, maybe he will get an ego by the time he's a senior :) Daisuke's also a sophomore and already has a bit of an ego, but he's allowed.

With two of the tallest guys on the Keio team, Hitoshi Fuchigami and Kazumasa Matsumoto.

Keio's Hayata Itoh, aka Mister Clutchy McClutchitude. His arms are HUGE.

Tokyo University 3rd-year infielder Shuhei Iwasaki, who was hanging out with the Keio guys. He's probably one of the better players on their team, I'm betting he'll be the team captain next year; I remember seeing him play in the rookie tournament as a freshman.

This guy is Yoshihiro Maeda. He's the Tokyo University team captain and theoretical ace pitcher, by which I mean he's kind of okay at pitching but he wouldn't be starting games if he went to any OTHER university in Big 6. I think we're about the same height.

Now THIS older guy is Shozo Etoh. He's the Keio manager. And unlike the other current Big 6 managers, he actually played in the NPB for several years, for both the Yomiuri Giants and the Chunichi Dragons, before being a coach various places. He just came to Keio to manage this year and they won the spring championship, so I wasn't sure what to expect from him -- like would he be a "I am this great former big leaguer and championship manager" type, or what? But when I asked him for a photo together he basically said something to the effect of "Certainly, if you're willing to be seen in a photo with a crazy old man like me!" So the consensus was that he also seems like a nice guy.

(Honestly, I should probably find out sometime why Hosei's manager Koji Kanemitsu turned down Kintetsu when they drafted him out of college in the 1st round, besides just "they're not the Carp"...)

And one last story from Jingu...

On the train in the morning on my way there, I saw this guy on the same train as me and I could have SWORN he was Kitada, the Keio ouendan leader that I met in Matsuyama. But he had this CRAZY-ass hairstyle, like shaved on the side and wavy/permed on top, which he didn't have there. So I was like "hmm... maybe that's not him..."

Well, after Etoh-kantoku left, the Keio ouendan dude walked by us, and one of my friends says "otsukaresama!" to him, since she was in the Keio ouenseki. And he stops and chats with us a bit. My friends were joking about how funny his hair looked, like "WTF ouendan style is this, you can't dump water on your head and keep THAT style..." and he started going on about something like how he did his hair different ways for different ouendan occasions, like spiked hair during the All-Japan tournament.

And I'm like "Okay, dude... you WERE in Matsuyama, right? And we got a photo together in front of the castle?"

"Yeah, that's me."

"Were you on the same train as me this morning?"

"I was. I noticed you too but didn't say anything. Then I saw you in the stands during the game today."

"So it WAS you! But your hair was different and I was tired so I thought 'nah... that can't be the same guy...'"

"It's me. Will you come cheer with us in two weeks?"

"Uhh... sure!"

Well, at least it's nice to be remembered.

Anyway, it was a fun weekend at Jingu. I'll probably only be going to one day next weekend, but this semester is looking to be interesing, to be sure.